Sunday, 29 July 2012

Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside!

I am writing this in a living room which is so dark that I really need a lamp on, or a candle. Out of the window I can see a large dark rain cloud looming, which is the cause of the lack of light.

I am not complaining though, as I have just had the most delightful week in the sunshine, full of light and loveliness in the wonderful seaside town of Aldeburgh.

I have read many nice things about Aldeburgh and nearby Snape and Southwold, but nothing bar going there for yourself can really explain the utter wonderfulness of it all. From the pebble beach to the little boating pond, the high street without any big chain stores, fish and chips, the curling river, the is bliss.

I kept a diary whilst I was there so I would not forget any of it, and over the next few days I will be sharing with you some of my adventures.

Just now though, my lovely husband and I are off to the cinema. I wish we didn't have to go out as it has just started pouring with rain, but hopefully we can dodge the raindrops!

There was no internet and barely any mobile phone signal, and I have really missed reading my favourite blogs, and posting myself, but it was also nice to have a little break from the digital world.

Looking forward to catching up with you, love Mimi xxx

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Thoughts Upon Change

I was reading a poignant post on a blog this evening, written after the passing of a much loved pet. In the post, the author mentions that there are some things about herself she would like to change, and told her husband about them.

Immediately, a thought came to mind.

Can we ever change ourselves?


Can we only ever become more who we truly are?

There are things that I have discovered in my adult life which are now so much a part of me that I cannot imagine them not being there. When I discovered vintage housekeeping over at Brocante Home, which you will know is one of my favourite websites, something clicked inside of me, and rather than discovering something new exactly, it was like recognising something inside of me that was already there. The same with my burlesque dancing, and wearing red lipstick. So many little things.

I am going out with some people from my new office on Thursday. I hestitated over what to wear. I have an amazing new green dress, one of the Gok Wan range from Sainsbury's, but I didn't know if I felt confident enough to wear it. But then I realised that the dress is really very me, and with my hair long and loose, my lips reddened, and my heels on, yes, it will be a statement, but it will also be me so I will be going with that rather than the safer choice.

I don't think any of us are finished works, we are always in progress, there is always more in ourselves to discover. That is the wonder and mystery of life. There are habits that I have or behaviours I have that I would like to change. But me, myself? I don't know that it is something that can be changed. I know that I am in a place now that I wouldn't want to, even if it were possible. I don't mean that in any self-congratulatory way. Just that I am slowly coming to know more and more what Sarah Ban Breathnach would call my authentic self.

And where there are changes we want to make in the way we live our lives, or things that we do, or don't do, somehow it feels much easier to think about it in terms of trying to change what we do rather than who we are.

That is all a bit more philosophical than I intended to be on a Tuesday evening. Is it really only Tuesday still? It feels like it has been a long week, but not in a bad way. I got home tonight and cleaned the bathroom. I didn't really feel like it, but tonight is the night I have designated on my new household cleaning routine, and once I got into it, I was really glad I stuck to it. Then I poured a pot of tea, and sat at my kitchen table with a Nigella Lawson book, to decide what to bake for Carl's Nan's funeral on Friday. I have decided an apple and rosemary cake, as rosemary is for remembrance. I think I might prink it up with a little hint of lemon. Then dinner, alone tonight, as Carl is out. He is so unhappy in his job it hurts to see it. I hope that things ease for him soon. I have the lights low, the window open, and for once, the door closed. The room is soft and almost womb-like. The scent from a bunch of sweet peas is carried on the lightest of breezes.

I hope that wherever you are, you know peace this evening.

love Mimi xxx

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Bookshelf Wish List

I was just having a little peruse on Amazon, when I discovered that there is a follow up to the wonderful Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree in October! It is called the Vintage Tea Party Year, and as suggested by the title is a year of themed vintage tea party ideas. The front cover looks fantastic and I can't wait to read it! Do head over to amazon and add it to your wish list too!

What I Have Done On My Holidays...So Far

So far, this week has been a blissful break from routine. Last night, as I lay in bed listening to thunder crash and rain that sounded like tiny pebbles against the glass, I decided that the one thing worse than a wet week off is a wet week at work! So although it has been pretty wet, it has been lovely to know I haven't got to splash to work through the puddles.

It has been a busy week so far. I have posted about some of it already, but we started with the Sparks Will Fly event to celebrate the Olympic Flame coming to Chelmsford, on Sunday we went to the Grand Prix, on Tuesday we spent the day at the CAMRA Beer Festival in the park. I don't like beer as a rule, but I do like Belgian Fruit beers. They are a little more expensive than regular beer but taste so much nicer! I enjoyed strawberry beer which is almost like jam, cherry which tasted of marzipan to me, and a delicious peach beer too. It makes me smile, as I don't really drink a lot, and when I do it is never beer, always wine or a cocktail.

I have been to the yarn shop to get some more wool for my ripple stitch Lyme Regis blanket, and I happily added a new ripple to it last night. I have really missed it! I am using the pattern from Attic24 and really enjoying the soothing rhythm of it.

Today we drove out to Goldhanger, a little coastal village not far from us, parked up and took a walk out along the sea wall. I just adore it down there. My Grandparents used to live on a houseboat, which is where my Mum grew up. It was permanently moored with a lovely garden, and I have lots of happy childhood memories there, although that was in the next village or so over. My great-great-grandfather used to race yachts in the Americas Cup, at one time captaining a yacht for the king of Spain. So being on the estuaries and salt marshes is really in my blood, and it calls to something deep inside me. It was more luck than judgement, but we arrived at low tide, so all the mud flats were exposed which is the most beautiful time to go. We walked out for an hour or so, in which we managed to reach a kind of beach hut, but built behind the sea wall, and on stilts so it was level with it. We sat and watched oyster dredgers at work for a while before turning back. It was then we noticed that the church we had parked next to was nothing more than a tiny dot in the background! Happily though, while it had been pouring with rain last night, today has been the perfect summer day. I had taken an umbrella just in case of sudden showers, but in the end I had to use it once or twice as a parasol for some shade!

I can't believe that it is Thursday evening already. The days seem to be slipping away very quickly. I have also found some time for some organizing, which has felt really good. I have put together a new skeleton for menu planning, a rhythm of themes for each day. Wednesdays are down as 'Burlesque Picnic' because on that night several of the girls gather at mine, and we all bring things to share such as bread and hummus and it is a really lovely evening in the week. I have down Souper Sunday and also 'homemade takeaway' for Fridays. I have done the same for lunches and breakfasts, and hopefully this will make menu planning and shopping much quicker. I have also put together a new set of housekeeping routines. I have a morning and evening routine to do every day, and then each day has its own task, and there are a few tasks to do fortnightly as well. It has been nice to have some breathing space to think about this kind of thing in.

It has also been a week of lovely visitors - the ever bubbly and enthusiastic Carla, and the ever inspirational Anna - and tomorrow I am off to see Mum for only our second proper day off together this year. Carl asked me earlier if this week had been special enough, exciting enough (we had been planning to go to Scotland)...and you know, it really has. Some big adventures mixed with lots of little ones, time to wake up when your body is ready to (about 7.30am for me, so not a major lay-in, but good, good, good!) and time to talk and think and plan.

I hope you are having a wonderful week,
Mimi xxx

Monday, 9 July 2012


Sometimes I can go for weeks without stumbling across a new blog or website which really interests me, and other times I find several all at once. Happily this has been a good week for blog discoveries. Carl found me reading this today
The blog is called The Modern Housewife Series Volume 1 and is written by 3 different ladies. When he noticed the title, he said, slightly wonderingly, 'your ambition really is to be the best housewife in the world, isn't it?' Well actually, I have to say, no. I want to be the best housewife I can be, to keep a welcoming home and put healthy tasty food on the table and give comfort and hospitality to all those who visit me. But not in a competitive way, just because it is the right thing to do way.
I cooked the recipe linked to above for dinner tonight, making a few tweaks here and there. I had everything I needed except for some kale, and the local shop yielded only spinach, so I went ahead and used that. After I added the ginger, I didn't think it was quite gingery enough, so I used a pinch of powdered ginger to give it a boost. I also had a tiny piece of cheddar to use, so I spread a layer of the beany butternut squash puree across a plate, grated over the cheese, then topped with the gingery tomatoey spinach.
It was really filling, and very flavourful, definitely one to make again. I think I will have to give some of the other recipes on the website a try too.
What did you have for dinner tonight?

Tea and Crochet

I was trying to think of a lovely title for this post, as it is a post about lovely things, but inspiration seems to be lacking today! Perhaps I should have called it lovely tea and lovely crochet!
Today is the first day of our week off properly, as we would have had the weekend off anyway. The Grand Prix yesterday was amazing, and as spectacular as the driving was, there was also a display by the Red Arrows which was breathtaking. The rain held off for the race, and we had amazing seats, but afterwards it did rain a lot and was very muddy, but it all added to the experience!
It took twice as long to get home as it did to get there, as a National Express coach had broken down on the M1, so we arrived home rather tired, and decided that today we would have a gentle day.
We had lunch together in town, and then got coffee to take away and took a long stroll through the park. The park in Chelmsford is really pretty and seems to go on forever. There is a small part near to the town, which is where the crocuses blossom each year, and then you walk along the river and under a bridge before you end up in the much larger park, where there is a really big pond. It is too small to be a lake, but too big to be a pond...I wonder if there is a name for it?! There were lots of ducks wandering about, some baby Cootes were peeping away, and the scruffy grey looking cignets we have been watching growing up are almost full sized swans now. We sat by a weeping willow and breathed the slightly cool, slightly damp air, and just felt really relaxed.
On the way home, we noticed new shops are springing up along the railway arches. We popped into the new delicatessen, and I was really excited to see they stock Tregnothan Tea. I enjoyed a pot of this a few years ago when we went to Claridges for afternoon tea, and I wanted to buy some to bring home, but they didn't have any. When I looked online, the postage and packing was more than the tea, so you can imagine how pleased I am to have a local source of it! At £3.75 for a little box it isn't a tea to drink every day, but is really, really lovely. It is refreshing and light, and is the only tea grown in the UK. We are enjoying a pot right now. It isn't quite raining yet, but it feels like it soon will be, so it feels like the perfect cosy afternoon.
While I was watching Three Go Mad, the new programme from River Cottage the other evening, I felt slightly at a loss as I have run out of wool for my crochet ripple blanket, and although I ordered more it has not come in yet, and although technically I am knitting Noah's Ark still, I have hit a dry spot for inspiration. I have been thinking that I need a small project to keep me amused, just something quick and easy that I can work on, but wasn't sure what. I finally visited and downloaded a free pattern for a crochet necklace. One of my friends had made a crochet collar earlier in the year that I thought looked really nice, and I have some background thoughts about buying or making the same dress in a variety of colours, and then customising with different buttons, trims, etc, so I am going to sit and drink tea and crochet a collar necklace this afternoon.
I have also discovered a lovely new blog, and plan to make this for dinner tonight with a few tweeks, as I have spinach but not kale at home today, and some River Cottage flatbread. That seems like the perfect overcast Monday food to me.
Blogger seems to object to putting paragraph breaks in at the moment, so apologies if this comes out as one big clump of text. I have tried telling it in html but it definitely seems to have its own mind!
I hope that it isn't raining where you are, and that you have a delicious pot of tea to drink, love Mimi xxx

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Fanning The Flames

If you have been visiting my little corner of the internet for a while, then you will know that I am not the most sporty of people. As such, while I have respect for the feats achieved by Olympic Athletes, I am not madly interested in watching them. So, I thought that Olympic Fever had passed me by, although I did very much like the Cath Kidston mug for the Olympics (it features among other things a lady in an old-fashioned swimming hat diving off of Big Ben!). When I was down in Taunton a month or so ago, the town was completely bedecked in bunting ready to welcome the Olympic Flame. I really liked that, and I like the sense of pride in our nation, and the feeling that we are all getting together to celebrate something. I think it has echoes of the Jubilee and last year's Royal Wedding. Even though I knew the Olympic Flame was coming to Chelmsford, I wasn't particularly excited. And then shops started to hang out bunting, and red-white-and-blue-flower-filled hanging baskets. Then the cafes announced they would open at 6:00am the day the Flame left Chelmsford (this morning, at 7:00am!). At work a lot of offices started to hang up flags and bunting, and even our own office had its own inflatable Olympic Torch! So we decided that we would get up early and go and watch the Flame pass through our town, and join in the celebrations. The excitement about it all has been really infectious! But then yesterday, we had a sudden change of plan! Late in the afternoon, I was lucky enough to be given a pair of tickets to Sparks Will Fly, the celebration event to welcome the Flame to Chelmsford. It was a really lovely atmosphere, with lots and lots of stalls and tents and happy people wandering about, being thankful that the rain had stopped. In one area, there was a band playing swing music, next to a stage where there were Highland Dancers and Bagpipe Players...very eclectic! The finale involved two giant stilt-walking puppet creatures who had been going around Essex collecting glass beads. I am a bit hazy to the details and reasons why, to be honest, but after they had some kind of final showdown quiz (which was visually stunning but a bit bemusing, especially when the compere urged us to breathe the Sussex air!) there were fireworks. All in all, although it was late and dark and muddy, I am really glad we were there, and got to see the flame. As there were a few thousand cars trying to leave the car park at the same time, we didn't get home till well after midnight, so decided not to get up this morning to see the Flame again after all. A good decision, I think, as I was really tired this morning! However, when we walked into town at the more sociable hour of half past nine, I was so pleased to see the Cathedral had decked their grounds with bunting, and so many shops had made the effort to decorate too. All in all, a really lovely atmosphere. Now, I am just hoping that the rain holds off for tomorrow, as we are off to Silverstone for the Grand Prix!

Friday, 6 July 2012

A Few Of My Favourite Things

Fridays it is hard to comprehend that it has really only been 3 months since I stopped working weekends, and whilst I do miss having a day off in the week, having two days off together is doing me so much good. And while I love waking up on a Saturday morning, knowing that the weekend is mine, I really love Fridays at work. I find that every day has its own distinct flavour and feel, but Fridays are just a little bit like the last day of term. Once a month we have dress down Friday, and I go in wearing my prettiest party dress. The lovely thing is that I am not looking forward to the weekend because I don't like work, I am lucky enough to love my job and the people I work with, it is just that sense of a rest and then another week ahead.
Donut Peaches which I have also seen called 'flat peaches'. A few years ago they were the new thing in shops such as Marks and Spencer and Waitrose, and as such were rather pricey. Luckily they are a bit more commonplace now, and I picked up a punnet packed with peaches for just £1 on the market greengrocers stall yesterday. I have just finished the last one (I did share!) and they were delicious, so juicy, and so full of flavour.
Tea with friends I enjoyed a pot of ceylon tea whilst catching up with a friend I have not seen for a while on Tuesday morning in the Small Talk Tea Rooms in Chelmsford. It really is like a little dolls house in there, and we were their first customers of the day, lined up outside ready for when the clock struck nine! Wednesday evening I shared a pot of Sunshine Earl Grey with another dear friend. Both of us had had slightly fraught days, but over the steaming pot and fragrant tea both of us felt better.
The Colour Red has always been a favourite of mine to wear, and today I wore my favourite red dress from Dorothy Perkins, and Ruby Woo red lipstick. I always have an extra spring in my step when I wear red.
Favourite recipes Carl was going to be late home from work again last night, so I asked him what he really fancied for dinner as a treat. He said pork chops, so I made my tarragon pork chops which I haven't made for a while, and remembered how lovely it is - quick and easy, and really delicious. (Sprinkle your pork chops with tarragon, pan fry until nearly cooked through, turning often, then pour over a little single cream, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Bubble away then serve).
Slowly getting to grips with technology I always said I would never twitter or tweet, but I am slowly embracing it. Last night when I was watching Question Time, I followed the tweets at the same time for the first time. I thought back to when I used to watch programmes as a little girl, and you could send away a stamped addressed envelope for a free factsheet, with recipes etc on it. Now on one hand I do think the instantaneous nature of technology is amazing...but I do have a little yearning for factsheets too! So those are a few of my favourite things this evening...what are yours?

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Life Goes On

The morning started well, with tea for two in my favourite teashop with a friend I used to work with. We had an appointment to learn about the latest restructure we will be going through at work, and although we were both apprehensive, it was nice to find a quiet pocket of time together.
Alas I cannot share any of the details of the restructure, and to some extent feel I shouldn't be commenting at all, but as I shall be going through the process and it is worse news than I was expecting, I feel like I can't not share that this is going on in the background.
But life goes on. I have my new secondment coming, and my current secondment is keeping me busy. Life goes on.
And after I had been at my desk for half an hour, sorting out a lot of problems which had sprouted over night, my phone rang. It was a message from my sister-in-law to say that my poor husband's Nan was fading fast in the hospital, and if we wanted to see her, we needed to leave then. So I had to phone Carl at work and relay the message. He left and we dashed across to the hospital, but got there ten minutes too late.
It seems that since this morning, and even in the last hour, she went down hill very quickly. I suppose, looking at it logically, if you have to go, surrounded by most of your family and going quickly isn't a bad way, but it is still so sad, and hard to look at logically. Life goes on though. An hour later, we were sitting together as a family sharing memories of her, and life around us was going on. Everything just keeps on keeping on.
We have come home, poured tea. I am so tired. I don't know if it is the emotion of this morning or this afternoon or both. Maybe it is the rain pattering on the window. Maybe it is just that I am tired. But I am so, so tired. To bed, then, to sleep. And when we wake up, a new morning, because life goes on.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Sleepy Sunday

I have posted before about how much I love Sundays, but as if to remind me how much I love them, this Sunday has been just lovely. We woke up late (8am!) after having friends round for dinner last night.
We started with glasses of sparkling wine with hibiscus flowers, houmous and homemade butternut squash dip with pitta bread. For the starter I made a Tamasin Day-Lewis recipe for Maqluba, which is a kind of upside-down cake but instead of being cake, is made with layers of tomatoes, aubergine, courgettes, onions, rice, lentils and sausagemeat. We had Persian lamb for our main course, and I made panna cotta for dessert. My favourite part of the meal was what I made to go with coffee, although we never actually got to drink the coffee! I made raspberries covered with white chocolate which were so much more amazing than they sound. As you bite through the chocolate, the raspberry explodes into your mouth, and the combination is fabulous. I also piped chantilly cream into very ripe apricot halves - next time I will sprinkle with flaked almonds too.
Poor Carl has had to work a lot recently, lots of late nights, into the office yesterday, working from home for some of today, so it was heavenly to get to spend soem time together. We went to the cinema and saw The Five Year Engagement which I teased Carl about because we had a five year engagement (it wasn't planned that way!) which was happily far less eventful than that in the film. I really enjoyed it, although it wasn't as funny as it was made out to be...not that the jokes were bad, more that it wasn't an out and out comedy film, there was story there too. I enjoyed it still though.
And now it is the evening, and I am sitting drinking some tea feeling slightly sleepy but happy. I had a really nice week, the highlight of which was drinking champagne at an afternoon tea in London with Trisha Ashley, who is, as you will know, one of my favourite authors. I was a little apprehensive about going, as you build an idea about someone from their writing, and also, I wasn't sure what to say beyond 'I love your books!'. Happily, she is absolutely lovely and very warm, and we found plenty to talk about, so it was really lovely. More detail later.
I have been meeting some of my new colleagues who I will be working with from the end of July, and they are all absolutely lovely. I seem to be very lucky, as the team I am working in at the moment is really friendly too. I think it is going to take a while for me to get used to working in that part of the building though - it houses our Chief Executive and Councillors so it is a very different environment for me.
I have a busy week ahead, and then a week off, which I am really looking forward to. I can't believe it is July already! I hope you have had a wonderful first half of the year, love Mimi xxx